Varanasi,(IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said that his parliamentary constituency Varanasi was witnessing all-round development under his watch but care was being taken not to disturb its ancient flavour by conserving its rich culture and heritage.
He added that the central government was making serious efforts to also develop Varanasi as the "gateway to East India".
Addressing a large gathering of vocal locals and BJP supporters at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) amphitheatre, Modi detailed the many projects being launched and inaugurated in the city and nearby villages to change the face of Varanasi.
"To make Varanasi a smart city, a gateway to East India, world class infrastructure is being brought in, transportation is being improved, LED street lights are being installed, medical facilities are being improved and strengthened, roads are being laid and existing highways and roads are being expanded and widened," Modi said.
He added that care was being taken not to disturb the temple city's rich history and culture.
The Prime Minister, who celebrated his 68th birthday on Monday with school children and party workers here, also said he was doubly delighted each time he saw the people of Varanasi posting pictures of the city on social media.
He urged the people to roll out an unprecedented hospitality to the hundreds who would come here for the 'Uttar Pradesh NRI (Non-Resident Indian) Diwas' in January 2019 so that they become brand ambassadors of tourism and goodwill for Varanasi.
He said the changing perception of Varanasi could be gauged by the fact that while in 2014 the footfall at the Babatpur airport was 8 lakh, it had grown to 21 lakh now.
Calling himself the "son of Kashi", Modi said he felt blessed to have started a new year in his life with "the blessings of Lord Shiva and Ma Ganga".
"It also gives me a resolve to further work for the welfare and prosperity of the people of India."
Speaking on various developmental projects since he was elected from Varanasi to the Lok Sabha in 2014, he said serious efforts were on to make the BHU a knowledge centre of the 21st century.
He accused the previous governments of leaving the fate of the city and its people to "Bholenath" (Lord Shiva).
Modi said that before 2014, the city was in a mess and files pertaining to its development were buried. Without taking names, he accused the previous Samajwadi Party government of ignoring the constituency.
The Prime Minister said that it was only when a BJP government was voted to power in Uttar Pradesh that due attention was given to Kashi.
Speaking about the underground cabling of electric wires in the city, he promised that the problem of low voltage in some localities and villages would soon be tackled.
A new bridge would be built over the Ganga to minimize the entry of trucks into the city and said that the Ring Road project was being expedited.
Work on the Varanasi-Haldi national waterway was on and soon ferries and cruises would be available along the route, Modi said.
Efforts were on to clean the Ganga from Gangotri (its source) to Gangasagar (end point) for which Rs 21,000 crore worth of projects had been approved by his government.
Earlier, the Prime Minister launched various projects and laid the foundation stones of a Vedic Science Centre at BHU and a Regional Institute of Ophthalmology.
He gave away modern furnaces to potters and 500 honey bee boxes for honey collectors.
Modi started his address in Bhojpuri, to the delight of the hundreds of youngsters.
The Prime Minister was on a two-day visit to Varanasi. On his birthday on Monday, he visited the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
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